Feds leave barn door open on dairy ques­tion

Times Colonist - - Business -

OT­TAWA — When it comes to de­fend­ing Canada’s sup­ply man­age­ment sys­tem from the trade de­mands of the Trump White House, Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Lawrence Ma­cAulay is leav­ing the barn door open a crack.

The U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion has made it clear it wants Canada’s sys­tem for con­trol­ling the price and sup­plies of dairy, eggs and chicken abol­ished — some­thing Ma­cAulay in­sists will not hap­pen.

But when asked Wed­nes­day whether there’s any room to ne­go­ti­ate on sup­ply man­age­ment, Ma­cAulay was less un­equiv­o­cal.

“Well of course what needs to hap­pen is with any trade deal you have to find out ex­actly what is on the ta­ble, what the ap­proach is,” said Ma­cAulay.

“I’m not go­ing to start ne­go­ti­at­ing NAFTA here in the pub­lic with the press, that would not be my role,” he said.

Af­ter the press con­fer­ence, Ma­cAulay’s office is­sued a state­ment clar­i­fy­ing his po­si­tion.

“Our gov­ern­ment strongly sup­ports and is com­mit­ted to main­tain­ing Canada’s sup­ply man­age­ment sys­tem. It was a Lib­eral gov­ern­ment that cre­ated sup­ply man­age­ment and we be tire­less in de­fend­ing it and stand­ing up for the in­ter­ests of Cana­dian farm­ing fam­i­lies,” the state­ment reads.

“Canada’s trade ne­go­tia­tors as well as the prime min­is­ter, min­is­ters and Lib­eral mem­bers of Par­lia­ment, have been clear about this since the cur­rent NAFTA talks be­gan,” the state­ment said.

At the press con­fer­ence when pressed about what re­al­is­tic changes Canada would con­sider, Ma­cAulay would only re­peat his in­sis­tence that the gov­ern­ment would de­fend sup­ply man­age­ment. “We are the gov­ern­ment that will de­fend sup­ply man­age­ment. We have in­di­cated that quite clearly. We’re fully united,” he said.

Ma­cAulay also skirted around com­ments Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau made in a U.S. tele­vi­sion in­ter­view that Canada has “flex­i­bil­ity” on dairy.

“I am not at the ta­ble. But what you have to do is be care­ful. The truth is, there’s ne­go­ti­a­tions tak­ing place. There’s a lot of things on the ta­ble. What we want to do, what we have in­di­cated quite clearly and the prime min­is­ter has in­di­cated quite clearly. The only NAFTA deal that we will sign is a deal that’s good for Canada,” said Ma­cAulay.

He also played down the on­go­ing trade ten­sions be­tween Canada and the U.S., say­ing there will al­ways be “lit­tle prob­lems” be­tween coun­tries.

Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture Lawrence Ma­cAulay.

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